Kate Winslet

Occupation: Actress
Date of Birth: October 5, 1975
Place of Birth: Reading, England, U.K.
Sign: Sun in Libra, Moon in Libra
Relations: Father: Roger (actor); mother: Sally (actress); sisters: Anna (actress), Beth (actress); brother: Joss; grandparents: Oliver and Linda Bridges (they ran the Reading Repertory Theatre); uncle: Robert Bridges (actor; appeared in original West End production of Oliver); husband: Jim Threapleton (assistant film director)
Education: Performing arts high school


DESPITE plum movie roles, critical accolades, and public adoration, Kate Winslet was plagued by foreboding whispers. The concern? That in her talent for relating the words and worlds of Austen, Hardy, and Shakespeare, Winslet's young film career would find its undoing; that she would fall victim to the Helena Bonham Carter Syndrome (H.B.C.S.), which renders gifted period-piece actresses permanently typecast as historical heroines.

H.B.C.S. was the furthest thing from Winslet's mind when she cashed her first acting-derived paycheck, at age 11. In a role surely not offered to Bonham Carter, Winslet frolicked with a creature called Honey Monster in a TV commercial for a sweetened breakfast cereal. The year was 1986, and Winslet had just started acting lessons in her hometown of Reading, England. She was following in family footsteps: her parents are stage actors, her maternal grandparents managed a repertory theatre, and her late uncle Robert Bridges acted in several West End productions.

In 1991, after graduating from a performing arts high school, Winslet herself stepped onto the stage in theatrical adaptations of Adrian Mole and Peter Pan. She soon landed on British television with bit parts on assorted sitcoms, including a recurring role on a show called Get Back. Then, at age seventeen, Winslet snagged a starring role in her first feature film, Heavenly Creatures, in which she played a fantasy-prone New Zealand schoolgirl caught up in a matricidal friendship. Winslet followed up the art-house hit by playing a princess in a Disney-does-Twain family flick, A Kid in King Arthur's Court.

Winslet triumphed in a cattle-call audition to secure the role of the hopelessly romantic Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. The production's roster boasted Emma Thompson as star and screenwriter, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman as love interests, and celebrated Taiwanese director Ang Lee in his first all-English movie. When Winslet read for the part, Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran experienced "cast at first sight." Lee was also impressed, but in light of Winslet's kooky Heavenly Creatures performance, he recommended tai chi exercises and an Austen-era reading list to help the actress achieve a more wistful performance. (Winslet also took a crash course in piano playing.)

In the end, the finished movie reaped scads of critical kudos, including a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Winslet. Suddenly a bona-fide movie star, she signed up for yet more period dramas. First up was Jude, based on Thomas Hardy's gloomfest novel, Jude the Obscure. Next she played the role of the doomed Ophelia in the star-studded production of Hamlet, directed by Emma's ex, Kenneth Branagh (Branagh considered but passed on Winslet for a role in his Mary Shelley's Frankenstein  a rejection for which Winslet surely owes him some debt of gratitude.)

As her star continued to brighten, Winslet faced a professional crossroads: either expand her repertoire into a well-rounded, strength-through-diversity oeuvre, or succumb to full-blown H.B.C.S. and forever remain the darling of the corset-and-crumpet crowd. She earned her chance to break away from the syndrome  if not the corset  once and for all with her Oscar-nominated performance opposite heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio inJames Cameron's widely-viewed masterwork, Titanic, released in 1997. The year 1999 brought a brace of roles in exotic-locale films: the lush drama Hideous Kinky, which traces the aimless and exotic Moroccan journey of a young hippie mother (Winslet) and her two daughters; and Holy Smoke, director Jane Campion's story of a young Australian woman (you guessed it, Winslet) who travels to India and falls under the sway of a charismatic cult leader.

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